Is The Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty Pilot Any Good?

Is The Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty Pilot Any Good?

Is The Winning Time: The Rise Of The Lakers Dynasty Pilot Any Good?

Adam McKay isn’t only making an impact on the movie world as the filmmaker has his handprints on HBO Max’s Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, which has an all-star cast including John C. Reilly, Jason Clarke, Adrien Brody, and Jason Segel. The first episode picks up on Reilly’s Jerry Buss, who takes a risk on purchasing the NBA’s Los Angeles Lakers. It also documents up-and-coming star Earvin “Magic” Johnson, who’s trying to be drafted by the professional sports league. The new show takes a look into their personal and professional lives, but is it worth watching?

Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty is an interesting show. At any moment, it can fall off a cliff because of the competing narratives throughout the pilot. And, at times, the series does fall into that danger zone. That’s because most of the characters don’t exactly have the most winning (pun intended) personalities. Granted, if you’re a professional athlete in the vein of Magic Johnson, then there’s a certain level of confidence that these guys or girls should have. But there’s a difference between confidence and arrogance. Johnson is more so the latter. Take his contract situation. The Lakers owner is offering this guy $400,000 per year, yet he’s so confident asking for $600,000. This is a rookie asking for over a quarter-million dollars when he hasn’t proven himself, but he’s demanding more than the traditional rookie salary. I understand that there are facts to this story and the philosophy behind Johnson’s mindset is sound, but there needed to be some more exploration on why anyone would sign an unproven talent to such a big contract.

Why does Buss feel that Johnson even deserves this amount of money? What, because of his confidence? Or his nice display of talent in a quiet and closed court? I’m not a basketball or business expert, but there’s a different vibe between playing behind closed doors and in front of thousands of screaming fans. Don’t get me wrong, Johnson doesn’t exactly get the contract in the end of the episode, but it sure seems like he does. My point is that there’s no way it’s as easy to get into the NBA like that. There are so many moving parts that we don’t get much prospective from Buss or even Jack about the situation, who clearly wasn’t thrilled by the time that meeting ended. Back to Johnson, he not much of a likeable presence between his overwhelming arrogance. He’s humbled a bit in the pilot, and the acting from newcomer Quincy Isaiah is pretty strong, but I wish there was a more likeable side to the kid. Hell, his arrogance doesn’t stop when a girl he likes breaks off their relationship. Perhaps I’m being too nitpicky as this is the sports and business work and backs will be stabbed, and the arrogance level will be at an all-time high. The performances are fantastic as everyone is finely in tune with their characters. Reilly is an engaging presence, and he has a couple of good zingers here and there. The style is also pretty nice. The constant breaking of the fourth wall is entertaining, and the actors pull off these moments with charisma to spare.

There’s nothing bad about Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty. All the moving parts are interesting, and the show avoids the trap of trying to get too inside the business. If you have no clue about basketball or the world within then you’ll still be able to follow the show allow with ease. The biggest issue is that there’s not much of a narrative focus on a particular thing. Buss appears to be the protagonist here, but so does Magic, so the pilot tries to focus on both characters while cramming in another plot line as well. It comes across as chaotic, rushed, and unfocused, though it’s never confusing. If the show settled down on one man and centered the world around him then the scope would be better as there’s stories here that really could’ve used some stronger development. Still, the pilot flew by pretty fast and I enjoyed watching everything onscreen. I’m not particularly an avid fan of basketball so diving into this world was fascinating. Is it worth checking out? Definitely, though some may feel that it’s stylized for its own good. It’s not the best pilot you’ll ever see, but an attractive plot, with a talented cast and the arc shows alot of promise. If the hiccups mentioned above don’t bother you then you’ll surely enjoy this exploration of the NBA.John C. Reilly

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